Throughout the millions of years of its existence, nature has demonstrated that the need to evolve is a mandatory element for survival. Factual proof is provided by studying the evolution process of the animal kingdom. It therefore comes to no surprise that man, and the activities he manages, need to relate to this phenomenon too… extending across to business organisations.

Immaterial of the size or type of operations, any organisation must be well prepared for carefully undertaking an evolution process – a business evolution process to reflect the ‘sign-of-the-times’. Some degree of flexibility and agility are therefore key ingredients to sustainable success, and generally, larger (more mature) organisations may find it more difficult to cater and respond to such flexibility when compared to smaller (younger) organisations.

This need to evolve in a swift manner is often brought about by our own selves – us, as consumers. No better demonstration of the need to evolve – rapidly – have we seen throughout this last year. Consider the speedy need to think and change as a result of the pandemic wreaking havoc on what was otherwise a general need to evolve and be that one step ahead.

Pandemic or not, the challenges for competitiveness become a nightmare – more so in these times. Failing to keep up means you risk driving your business into mediocrity, very fast. What is worse is that social media makes it so easy for people to say just ‘how bad you are’!

Urgent business evolution is therefore a mandatory success factor. And, if the urgent evolution process cannot keep up with the demands, we may need to consider even more aggressive approaches. As we have seen in the very recent past, radical transformation is critical for an organisation to re-align itself with unprecedented and trending demands.

Business ideas need to be generated, developed and materialised through innovative and creative initiatives, drive, funding and empowerment.

What makes your organisation tick

There are a number of elements upon which any organisation is generally dependent for it to operate as a whole. Each of these elements plays a vital role in its smooth operational activities, and needs to be managed with care and attention.

Defined Methodologies – No organisation can sustain success if it operates in a state of randomness. Immaterial of the size and/or complexity of the organisation, it must have well-defined methodologies against which the operations and activities take place.

Proper tools – The next important element is the identification and provision of the right tools, equipment and infrastructures, systems and the like. So much can be jeopardised if attempting to do work with the wrong tool set.

Setting (physical environment, social, wellbeing) – Physical, social environments and people’s wellbeing are three core elements that make the setting. The tangible physical setting may generally be regulated by the business sector (for example: pharmaceutical, electronics, food & beverage, aeronautical, marine, oil & gas, services, etc) and therefore more controllable. The social setting may not be an area that any sector can regulate too easily, but the happiness and wellbeing of employees can make or break the whole setting.

People (capacity, capability, knowledge) – The capability to match the right skills for the activities and maintaining an empowered workforce is an achievement in itself. Some organisations may struggle when it comes to communicating their vision, mission and strategic objectives in a clear enough manner to reach all of their people – endangering full engagement. Ownership is a big word. Encouraging your people to own their job responsibilities is a formula for success.

Lifeblood (data/information, physical material) – We can generally visualise that the flow of material, data and information are what energises any organisation, just like blood drives oxygen through our bodies. Interrupt this flow and you are in big trouble. Introduce pollutants into the stream (biased or non-factual data) and get ready for some serious consequences.

Performance measure – Know where you are, where others are, and where you want to be. Get there through initiatives based on the right level of information and analysis. Enable decisions to be taken based on uncluttered facts.

Getting there

Whilst classical evolution is generally gradual and more controllable, often, undertaking a rapid transformation (as most of us had to during this last year), can be considered rather risky and fearful by many – and this includes executive management. One cannot entirely blame this anxiety. I have seen so many c-suite executives fall over under stress because they were not well prepared to undertake an evolutionary transition – let alone such an unplanned and rapid transformation. The changes brought about by this impact can be quite significant.

Organisational transformation is not only about organisational restructuring or process reengineering. That may well be the easiest, and most fun, part of the project!

The more delicate factors may be less tangible than reorganising the definition of the structure or process redesign, reengineering or streamlining. We must be highly sensitive to matters that are typically related to people, culture, skills-matching, and timing.

Bear in mind that any change initiative will at some point or other affect the way people do things, the way people need to think , reason and act. With people comes culture – what works for one company may not work for another. Every organisation (and department, and individual, in each organisation) has its own distinct ‘culture’, which needs to be factored in when managing the transformation process.

People also mean skills by which they get their activities done. Getting through the changes may generally also mean reviewing the talent-mix and capability of your people. Whilst many may be prepared to learn and broaden their proficiencies, others may be less receptive – and believe me, I have seen this resistance also being demonstrated by the most senior of executives in some organisations!

Given the choice, rushing changes into place may not quite be the right approach at times. Psychologists state that, unlike popular belief, man can actually handle a high level of change. Two factors that work against this statement are generally the way the change is presented, and the timing allowed for the change to be undertaken. Allowing the change to happen gradually over a suitable period of time generally works well in favour of organisational transformation – planning is key. Yet, 2020 did not allow most of us to plan! And the change had to happen fast… too fast, perhaps.

Making it happen

Generally speaking, evolution and transformation initiatives need careful and up-to-date strategic planning. However, clever planning and exhaustive strategies alone will not deliver results. Implementation and execution of the plan is what does!

The stress placed on the business world in the past 12 months or so has demanded – more than ever before – that would-be survivors must get things done. Perhaps having had little time to plan and prepare the appropriate resources, provide the sufficient funds, and work within any sensible timeframes, most did not (and perhaps still do not) have the right tools and equipment.  

So many other interdependent elements have been exposed in adapting to the immediate need to change brought about on many organisations. Do not wait any longer… one might feel that now is the time to contain the damage and not to think about change. I would probably share an opinion on that.

Ing. Joseph Micallef is a freelance Consulting Advisor, bringing with him over 30 years’ worth of experience across various sectors. Working in areas related with quality, lean, business process transformation and project execution and programme management he can be contacted directly on m +356 9982 2244 or e: [email protected]

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